Cincinnati NMRA Train Show

Perspective from the other side of the table

The big show…

Read on, you might find it interesting….

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

From July 8th to the 10th, 2005, in Cincinnati, was the NMRA Train show and convention, our first time attending one of these as an exhibitor. Since there are plenty of sites out there with pictures and information about the show, I thought I would be a little different and touch on what it is like on “the other side of the table.”

In January we decided to attend the show and paid the $1000 US it would cost for the booth. It was a bit of a gamble, but with lots of encouragement from our good friend Clark Kooning, we felt it would pay off. Plus, maybe it would be fun.

Much effort would need to be put in by many people to pull this off, and hopefully make it a success. Getting ready for a show like this means dealing with a thousand little details, and hopefully, only overlooking the minor ones.

Doing the train show circuit really has not been part of our method of operating, so we really didn’t have all the stuff that would be required to do this, little things like matching shirts, flyer’s, brochures and displays. The list went on and on. With lots of effort on everyones part, we were able to work together and get all these details worked out.

The two weeks prior to the show were a blur of 14 hour days. Building up the stock to take, and tending to the final details meant for little sleep. We worked right up until 3 am of the day we were to leave, even though we promised ourselves we would not do that.

Vita (my wife, partner, and all around good egg), working late into the night preparing stock for the show

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

In the week prior to the show we got our first bit of bad news. Clark Kooning might not be able to make it to the convention at all. Due to some difficult family issues it would not be possible for him to get away. This was scary for me as I have always had Clark by my side at the shows, he is a master salesmen, very well known and respected in the community, and a rock should I need it.

On the weekend before the show Clark did mention he might be able to slip down for a couple of days to help out with the show, and that was a bit of a relief. I felt bad for him, as I know how much he enjoys the annual convention, even a couple of days at the show might be fun for him.

We hit the road early on Tuesday July the 5th, and headed to the small town of Sylvan, Ontario, to rendezvous with Clare Gilbert, of Sylvan model’s fame. Clare is a good friend of ours and graciously offered to truck all our stock down to the show with his stock. Crossing the border into the US with inventory to sell can be a nightmare, and fortunately for us, Clare has done this enough times to know how to avoid the pitfalls.

From there we were on our way to Cincinnati! The drive was pleasant and uneventful, we arrived Tuesday evening in time for dinner.

We decided to stay right in the hotel connected to the convention center, and even though it was a bit more expensive, it was well worth it for the convenience and comfort. The Four Points hotel was staffed with excellent people, friendly and attentive. We were right at the top, on the 21st floor.

Wednesday we spent the day checking out the convention, exhibitors at the Train Show get free access to all the convention goodies, although we did not have much time to really take it all in. We spent some time enjoying a very well needed day relaxing at the pool…

Thursday was move in and set up day at the convention center, which meant waiting in the line of cars, trucks, trailers and even semi-trucks dropping off stock and layouts for the show.

This was very well organized and went reasonably quickly.

waiting in line for our turn to unload

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

We didn’t have too much in the van to drop off as the majority of our stock was with Clare, and he wasn’t scheduled to arrive until later in the day, but we didn’t have much else to do and we were anxious to get into the hall.

We were also waiting for Russ and Heather, my brother and sister-in-law, to arrive on Thursday, so it was lots of hurry up and wait….

After a bit of a wait in the line we were able to drive right into the hall and unload our stuff right at the booth. We were quite happy with the location, right behind Bar Mills.

The show was divided into booths of different colors, blue and yellow. Blue was for non-retail manufacturers displaying new products, and yellow was for retailers. For some reason (and very lucky for us) we were in with the non-retail crowd, even though we had every intention of selling at the show. I decided to keep my mouth shut and avoid a possible disaster. Nothing was said, and I assumed it was this way because we were both a manufacturer and a retailer.

Vita posing in the booth we will all be living in for the next few days

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

We met up with Russ and Heather in the early afternoon and decided to run a few errands since we could not set up the booth until our stock (hopefully) arrived with Clare. I had no way of contacting him while he was on the road, so it was a bit of a nail bitter hoping he would not end up with trouble getting through customs. I had visions of all my stock sitting back at the boarder and a 3 day struggle trying to clear it through. I tried not to focus on that while we all did some grocery shopping.

I did not want to live for 3 days on coffee and hot dogs, I needed to be at the top of my game if we were going to have any chance of pulling this off, so we decided to go buy some decent food to eat. Lots of fruit, veggies, juice and a couple of subs would see us through the show.

After a bit of shopping we returned to the hall to a very welcome sight, all our stock sitting in our booth waiting to be set up! At this point I felt all the major hurdles to the show had been crossed. The only thing missing was our good friend Clark. We had word he may be showing up early Friday morning, the day the show opened.

Its was 6 pm, and we had until 8:30 pm to get set up, so the four of us went hard at it to get things organized. Every fifteen minutes an announcer with a voice that could put anyone to sleep, counted down the time until we had to exit the building. It reminded me of a reality show of some sort. It were down to the wire, but we managed to get our displays in place.

We had ordered power and internet for the booth. Every item you wish to have in your booth is an expense, the power is metered out in amps, and you must use their rented extension cords. The internet connection was very expensive, but for us, a necessity. We paid for a 56K connection that would be active for the duration of the show. When we set up neither of these were working properly.

With union efficiency, everything was set up an running in a few short hours, with a minimum of shouting. Actually, I was quite impressed in how well we were taken care of by the convention center staff.

We got real lucky with the internet connection, instead of the 56K connection we paid for, we got a full, unthrottled, 100 megabit pipe to the net! That was some fast data transfer! I downloaded a 35 meg file in 13 seconds, 3000K per second. Too bad I didn’t have some time to make use of that.

The booth was set up, and we were ready to go…

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

As we were setting up, some of the magazines we advertise in dropped off some pre-made signs promoting the fact that we advertise in their magazines. That spiffied up the tables a bit. We also got one stating that we produce products for the S scale market, which we do.

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

We decided to display everything we had on hand, ready to sell, on the tables. This worked out very well as it allowed people to browse through the stock at leisure. All those PointForm tools and kits made for a heavy load on that little table. Fortunately it held….

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Thursday night I wandered around the convention center and found a walkway above the hall where the train show was to be held, here are a couple of shots of part of the show, all set up and waiting for the hordes of model railroaders….

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Early Friday morning, the first day of the show, I was up and ready to go. Only slightly nauseous, I figured I was as ready as I would ever be. Friday morning was set aside for registered conventioners only, the public would have to wait until noon to get access to the show.

When I arrived at the booth an hour early there was already a line of people waiting to see our stuff. Other manufacturers who were familiar with us. This was very encouraging and helped alleviate the nausea somewhat…..

15 minutes after the show opened we had already covered all our expenses for the show! (and there were a lot of them) Sales were good right from the start. It was very good news for all of us and immediately put me at ease.

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

At this point I got news that Clark would not be able to make it after all, and I felt pretty bad for him. I know we will be able to go to other shows in the future, so we will just have to delay the fun until that can happen. For me, it was a bit of a trial by fire, as Clark has always been our unofficial salesmen, but I have worked with him enough to learn how to work with model railroaders, and felt I was able to step up to the plate with confidence. It looks easy enough, but it tests ones mettle to do it for three long days.

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

I’m the one with the shiny head….

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

As can be seen from the pictures, we all pitched in to make this a success. Russ turned out to be a competent salesmen as well, learning as he went along (he is not a model railroader, but knows a fun hobby when he sees it). Vita (behind the camera for these pictures) and Heather took care of paying customers, which, as it turns out, took two people working almost full time to keep up.

Friday was the busiest day, Saturday was about half the sales of Friday, and Sunday, half of Saturday. But overall, it was a great success and well worth the effort and investment.

Later in the day I had a bit of time to chat with the boys over at Bar Mills. Mike Tylick was on hand showing passers by some modeling techniques, so I decided to spend some time with him to see what he had to say. Mike is a heck of a nice guy, and lots of fun, I could listen to his thick accent all day!

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Occasionally I was able to sneak away and get a quick look at the show. It would have been nice to do a leisurely walk through the entire hall, but is was not to be.

Clare was set up with all his vehicles, boats, train cars and other goodies, and as anyone who knows Clare Gilbert will testify, he likes to talk….

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

I owe Clare and Manfred Lesser a great deal of gratitude, they took a large part of the hassle of doing a train show in the US from me, and made it a snap…

Some of Clare’s impressive collection of HO scale cars from the mid 30’s up…

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

of course, this one is Vita’s and mine favorite car. Look closely at the name of the passengers….

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Finally, Sunday at 5:00 pm rolled around and it was announced that the show was over. A cheer could be heard throughout the hall as all the exhausted manufacturers were glad to have it behind them.

An announcement was made that the final total was 17,331 visitors, and I think I talked to them all!

After all this, we had to do a complete inventory and prepare a commercial invoice for the bureaucrats at customs. Again, teamwork made this go much easier…

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Doing this show was an incredible experience, and lots of fun. I finally got to meet some of the people I have been emailing over the last two years. It was encouraging to see the enthusiasm of people who have decided to be the first to try a new product, and all gave such positive feedback. I can confidently say to others now, “talk to someone who uses our products”, and know we will get good reviews.

It was also exciting to have some very notable modelers heartily endorsing our products, to the main stream modeling press!

After three days of what turned out to be a lot of fun, we decided to celebrate by treating ourselves to some sushi!

Russ had the beef….

Image copyright 2005 Tim Warris

Posted by: | 07-12-2005 | 08:07 PM
Posted in: Uncategorized


  1. Many thanks for the effort of publishing this from the other side of the table! I did not make it to the convention this year so you have made it more real! Sure seems like a lot of work, especially coming from Canada (where I am too).

    Comment by Bob Boudreau — 7/13/2005 @ 3:29 am
  2. All I can say is a great big thanks to you Tim and your “staff”. They were all very nice folks and I had a great time at the show. I will say this, meeting Tim and having him spend some quality time with me was the highlight of my trip to the show. I had brought along a couple of N Scale turnouts that I had constructed to bring to “the Master” for his evaluation (and I was a little nervous about that). Tim gave me his approval, and a lot of new tips to become an even better turnout builder. I went back to the hotel that evening and wrote down an “action item” list of all the new pointers we talked about. It was also nice receiving encouragement from him on my own blog, and I need to get back to updating it soon. Thanks Tim! Oh, and yes, his accent was cool too.

    Comment by Chris Zygmont — 7/13/2005 @ 5:44 am
  3. Tim,

    This was a great article on the show. I really like your products and your fantastic web site. Will you be coming to the San Diego show? I hope so.


    Comment by PhilipRaymond — 7/13/2005 @ 9:46 pm
  4. Tim, it was great meeting you at the show. I hope you didn’t mind my dragging all of my friends over to your booth — at least they bought a few things. I’m glad to hear the show was a success for you (you and your family seemed VERY busy) and I hope I helped in some way to increase the word of mouth on your products. Best of luck going forward.

    Craig Bisgeier

    Comment by Craig Bisgeier — 7/14/2005 @ 12:06 pm
  5. hmmm I didnt know you had an accent!!


    Comment by dad — 7/14/2005 @ 2:10 pm
  6. I have railroaded off and on for 50 years. The Cincy show was my first National show… Thank you for coming to our area. I spent too much but loved it too much more.

    Look forward to another great time of sharing and learning from the experts!


    Comment by Larry Barratt — 7/22/2005 @ 9:31 pm
  7. Great show, first in years. I too enjoyed the accent at the Bar Mills table. I am from Indiana the land of no accent. My wife only allowed me an hour at the show she shoppping and then to lunch. Your table best by far. Great product order winging its way by Internet.

    Comment by Dick Porter — 7/24/2005 @ 8:11 am
  8. Glad to have met you even over the net. It makes things much more pleasant. Incidently I noticed the first note was from Bob Boudreau, also from Saint John NB., who, in my opinion, is one of the finest modelers I know with many of his efforts featured in practically all the main MR publications. His work is truly insperational.
    I look forward to receiving my orders as I am having a ball building switches. Your kits are an easy way to get perfection and sure saves a lot of headeaks from what I have done in the past.
    Sincerely, John

    Comment by John K.A.Pollard — 8/12/2005 @ 1:47 pm
  9. I enjoyed the article. I have worked at several train shows in Oklahoma City. Our club is one of the sponsering groups, and we have helped to set up booth, and load and unload dealers, as well as man the club layout for 14 hours days. Glad you survived and hope you looking the annual December train show in Oklahoma City. One of the biggest outside of the NMRA show.


    Comment by Kurt Konrath — 5/2/2007 @ 5:08 pm

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